Saturday, July 31, 2010

For second year, more schools got highest ratings

Texas Education Agency releases statewide school ratings
For second year, more schools got highest ratings; education commissioner defends use of system of special measures and exemptions.

By Melissa B. Taboada

Updated: 10:36 p.m. Friday, July 30, 2010
Published: 10:21 p.m. Friday, July 30, 2010

For the second consecutive year, more than two of three schools statewide earned top academic honors exemplary and recognized ratings Texas Education Agency officials announced Friday.

But even as he lauded the numbers, state Education Commissioner Robert Scott defended the special formulas used to help most campuses boost their ratings a level and claim those titles.

The Texas Projection Measure allows districts to count as passing certain students who fail but are projected to pass within three years. Critics say the system gives a false boost to districts.

"If you look at the data of what we projected in 2009 and what happened in 2010, it proved out, almost to every campus," Scott said Friday. "Many of the districts and campuses that are rated exemplary or recognized this year would have been recognized or exemplary anyway, even without TPM."

But figures released Friday by the Texas Education Agency show that statewide this year, only 33 percent of the 5,777 exemplary and recognized campuses earned those ratings without using exemptions or special measures.

In the Austin district, 68 of the district's 110 schools achieved the top two ratings, the most since the state-mandated Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills was first administered in 2003 . However, fewer than half of those campuses met the absolute state standard on their own.

To earn an exemplary rating, the state requires that 90 percent of students pass the TAKS, that 95 percent of high school students either graduate on time or continue high school for a fifth year, and that a district have an annual middle-school dropout rate of 1.8 percent or less. To earn a recognized rating, at least 80 percent of students must pass the TAKS, and the completion rate must be 85 percent.

As Austin Superintendent Meria Carstarphen announced in June, only one campus, Eastside Memorial Green Tech High School, received the state's lowest rating of academically unacceptable. Green Tech is one of the new schools opened at the former Johnston High School, which was closed by the state in 2008 after it failed for five consecutive years to meet state academic and dropout standards.

While acknowledging criticism, Scott pointed to data that showed student progress, including an increase in TAKS passing rates and high school completion rates, as well as declining dropout rates this year compared with 2009.

"If the Legislature wants to make a stand on this issue, then I will work with them next session to come up with a more accurate way, if they think we need a more accurate way," Scott said at a news conference Friday. "If you get down to it, this is an election year issue that is being raised by a few people to cast doubt on this day."

In a letter sent to districts across the state last month, Scott asked for input from school administrators on the measurement projection. At Friday's news conference, he surrounded himself with superintendents and principals who spoke to reporters about how the system benefited their districts.

"We're showing outstanding gains over the years; we're meeting required improvement," said Jim Palmer, superintendent of the Burton school district. "The ability of TPM to bump us up to recognized status gives us credit for the things we are doing \u2026 bringing our kids from two and three grade levels behind to grade level."

State Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston , has been one of the most vocal critics of the system and said the issue isn't partisan.

He pointed to state Rep. Rob Eissler , the Republican chairman of the House Public Education Committee, and state Sen. Florence Shapiro , the Republican chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, and other Republicans who have said the projection measure was not what they had intended when they asked the agency to give credit for student gains.

The projection is supposed to be a measure of student annual progress, Hochberg said. "The projection is how you determine whether the annual progress is sufficient. It by itself should never be part of the ratings."

Some districts were quick to point out their improvements were achieved on their own merit, without the help of the Texas Projection Measure.

The Round Rock district earned a recognized rating overall, a feat district officials said was accomplished without the use of the Texas Projection Measure. Forty-one of its 44 schools earned exemplary or recognized ratings, many of them with help from special measures or exemptions.

"We are extremely pleased with our TAKS results," Superintendent Jesús Chávez said.

For the second consecutive year, the Eanes school district — and all of its campuses — earned exemplary ratings. According to the state, none of its campuses used special measures or exemptions to do so.

The Leander school district met state standards to earn a recognized rating. All but three of the 35 campuses rated by the state this year were either exemplary or recognized.

Pflugerville had 20 schools — seven more than last year — rated exemplary or recognized. Five of those school met absolute state standards for those ratings. District officials said they will contest its rating of academically acceptable, arguing that Pflugerville should have received a rating of recognized.

Districts may appeal ratings through mid-August .

The state awarded the acceptable rating based on Pflugerville's completion rate, which reflects the percentage of students who graduate on time or continue for a fifth year in high school. A completion rate of 85 percent is required for a recognized rating, but the state calculated Pflugerville's rate at 84.9 percent.

"Pflugerville's promise to our students and our community is that the district will prepare each child for their future in our world, and I believe the gains our students have made in the last few years show we are closer than ever to fulfilling that promise," said Superintendent Charles Dupre.

Austin's Reagan High School, which for years missed state targets, earned an acceptable rating this year, with the help of a special credit for improvement.

Carstarphen said Reagan pulled through this year thanks to the staff's hard work in identifying students who were falling through the cracks.; 445-3620.

Staff writer Laura Heinauer contributed to this report

Central Texas accountability ratings

The state standard to earn an exemplary rating requires that at least 90 percent of a district’s or school’s students pass the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, that 95 percent of high school students either graduate on time or continue high school for a fifth year and that a district have an annual middle school dropout rate of 1.8 percent or less.

However, the Texas Education Agency has allowed districts and campuses to increase their ratings by one level using special measures or exceptions. Central Texas schools that met the absolute standard for an exemplary rating are listed below with asterisks beside their names.

For a complete list of ratings for schools and districts statewide, visit the Texas Education Agency’s website at .

Austin — Academically acceptable

32 Exemplary — LASA High School*, Richards School for Young Women Leaders and Barton Hills, Becker, Blanton*, Casis*, Dawson*, Gullett*, Highland Park*, Joslin*, Lee*, Mathews, Metz*, Oak Springs, Ortega*, Pease, Ridgetop*, Summitt, Sims, Patton*, Zilker, Oak Hill, Pillow, Doss*, Hill*, Sunset Valley, Graham*, Kiker*, Mills*, Baranoff*, Cowan and Clayton* elementary schools.

36 Recognized

41 Academically acceptable

1 Academically unacceptable — Eastside Memorial Green Tech High School

Bastrop — Academically acceptable

7 Recognized

5 Academically acceptable

Del Valle — Recognized

1 Exemplary — Smith Elementary School

7 Recognized

3 Academically acceptable

Dripping Springs — Recognized

3 Exemplary — Dripping Springs High School and Rooster Springs and Walnut Springs elementary schools

2 Recognized

Eanes — Exemplary

9 Exemplary — Westlake High School*, Hill Country* and West Ridge* middle schools and Eanes*, Cedar Creek*, Valley View*, Forest Trail*, Barton Creek* and Bridge Point* elementary schools

Elgin — Academically acceptable

2 Recognized

5 Academically acceptable

Georgetown — Academically acceptable

7 Exemplary — Cooper*, Village*, Williams*, Ford*, Carver, Purl and Pickett elementary schools

7 Recognized

2 Academically acceptable

Hays — Academically acceptable

4 Exemplary — Fuentes*, Negley*, Buda and Elm Grove elementary schools

10 Recognized

5 Academically acceptable

Lago Vista — Exemplary

2 Exemplary — Lago Vista Elementary and Lago Vista Middle schools

1 Recognized

Lake Travis — Exemplary

6 Exemplary — Lake Travis High School, Lake Travis Middle School* and Bee Cave*, Lake Pointe*, Lakeway* and Serene Hills* elementary schools

2 Recognized

Leander — Recognized

21 Exemplary — Vandegrift High School; Canyon Ridge*, Henry, Cedar Park and Leander middle schools; Steiner Ranch*, Cox*, Bush*, Deer Creek*, Rutledge*, River Place*, Westside*, River Ridge*, Faubion, Block House Creek, Cypress, Giddens, Plain, Grandview Hills, Parkside and Winkley elementary schools.

11 Recognized

3 Academically acceptable

Lockhart — Recognized

4 Exemplary — Cisneros freshman campus of Lockhart High School and Bluebonnet*, Plum Creek and Navarro elementary schools

3 Recognized

1 Academically acceptable

Luling — Academically acceptable

4 Academically acceptable

Manor — Academically acceptable

5 Recognized

5 Academically acceptable

1 Academically unacceptable — Oak Meadows Elementary School

Pflugerville — Academically acceptable

5 Exemplary — Kelly Lane Middle School and Murchison, Pflugerville, Rowe Lane* and Timmerman* elementary schools

15 Recognized

5 Academically acceptable

Round Rock — Recognized

25 Exemplary —Westwood High Schoo l; Canyon Vist a*, Walsh and Cedar Valley* middle schools; Spicewo od*, Forest No rth*, Car away*, Brushy Creek*, Laurel Mo untain*, Fer n Bluff*, Cany on Creek*, G reat Oaks*, Teravista*, C actus Ran ch*, Somme r*, Deep Wood, Robertso n, Pond Sp rings, Li ve Oak, Old Town, Jollyv ille, Forest Creek , Blackland Prairie, Union Hill and Gattis elementary schools.

16 Recognized

4 Academically acceptable

San Marcos — Recognized

2 Exemplary — Bowie* and Crockett elementary schools

4 Recognized

3 Academically acceptable

Wimberley — Recognized

4 Recognized

Friday, July 30, 2010

Obama Trumpets Value of Race to the Top

Obama Trumpets Value of Race to the Top
By Alyson Klein on July 29, 2010 11:30 AM

President Barack Obama offered a forceful defense today of his signature education initiative, the $4.35 billion Race to the Top program, which rewards states for making progress on raising standards, improving teacher quality, establishing data systems, and turning around low-performing schools.

The program—and Mr. Obama's prescription for turning around those low-performing schools—has come under sharp criticism lately from civil rights groups, who say distributing funds through competitive grants hinders poor and minority students, whose schools may not have the resources to compete for the dollars. His speech to the National Urban League this morning offered a rebuttal to such criticism and echoed much of what U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan said to the same group yesterday.

Mr. Obama argued that the steps that Race to the Top encourages states to take, including lifting the cap on charter schools and using student data to inform teacher evaluation, are the right ones.

"None of this should be controversial. There should be a fuss if we weren't doing these things," Mr. Obama said.

And he touted the program's other aims, including encouraging states to work together to adopt higher, more uniform academic standards. That's a departure from the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, which he said inadvertently rewarded states for lowering standards. And he said Race to the Top would help states develop richer assessments that do a better job of gauging what students know so that teachers can improve instruction, instead of "teaching to the test."

Obama made it clear he doesn't want to see wholesale changes to the program, which two congressional committees recently voted to extend for an additional year, albeit not at the level the administration asked for in its budget request. Recently, the House voted to trim $500 million from the program to help pay for a $10 billion to stave off teacher layoffs, but the legislation did not gain support in the Senate.

"I'll continue to fight for Race to the Top with everything I've got, including using a veto to prevent folks from watering it down," Mr. Obama said.

UPDATE (11:45 a.m.): Michele just talked to the Rev. Al Sharpton, who was originally on the press release as a supporter of this new framework. He told her that the critical framework was "prematurely released" and that his National Action Network, the NAACP, and the Urban League, are actually not supporters of the framework. He added that these three groups didn't have "concerns" about the President's education agenda, but "questions," which were addressed in a Monday meeting with administration officials. In fact, the Rev. Sharpton said, "I agree with [the president]...I'm prepared to fight for a lot of what he's saying."

Wade Davis on endangered cultures | Video on

Wade Davis on endangered cultures | Video on

Really excellent commentary on the erosion of the "ethnosphere" at a rate far greater than the biosphere. Language loss (aka subtraction) is one of the most significant indicators of this.


Changing the standards will not improve student achievement

Today is Dr. Stephen Krashen day. Folks, the problem is that focused, prescribed standards lead to standardization, and particularly in environments where they work as handmaidens to administrative agendas and control.

Think about it this way. If I, the government, control not only your definition of a quality education (state or national curriculum) AND also hold the keys to it (tests), I can get you (teachers, schools, the consumer, or the public) to do to all kinds of things that you probably wouldn't ordinarily do. However, if I control the frame, you'll go along with it even against the overwhelming evidence that raising standards in themselves do not equate to college readiness. While not everyone is destined to be a college graduate, none should be deprived of the option via curricular-, policy-, or test-driven fiat.

And that's the real gold standard after all, isn't it? And if it isn't, shouldn't it be?


Changing the standards will not improve student achievement

**Sent to the Mercury News, July 26, 2010**

**California's "stellar standards have failed to produce stellar
students" because higher standards never result in higher achievement
("California could adopt national English, math standards," 7/25).
California will always "languish near the bottom" on reading tests as
long as it refuses to invest in libraries.**

Dedicated readers have no trouble meeting the reading standards. Those
who are not have no chance. These "skills" are not taught but are
gradually absorbed through wide reading. For many children the only
place to get books is the library.

Studies consistently show that school library quality and the presence
of a credentialed librarian relate to reading achievement. California
has the worst supported libraries in the US.

Susan Ohanian points out that providing rigorous standards to students
without the means to meet them is like giving menus to starving
people. Debating the content of the standards is simply discussing
what will be on the menu.

Stephen Krashen

Original article:

A budget cut that helps

Commentary by Dr. Stephen Krashen on cutback in days of schooling in CA schools.

These numbers should be readily available in every state. So testing companies profit from crises as long as they're seen at "the solution" to our education ills. We fund what we value do we not? And power relations are always connected to these decisions.


A budget cut that helps

Sent to the San Francisco Chronicle, July 19, 2010

The budget crisis is so bad that many California school districts are
planning to cut several days from the school year ("School year
shrinking as budget crisis grows," July 19). Nobody appears to have
considered a much more obvious way of saving money, one that will help
instead of hurt: Eliminating unnecessary tests.

**Let's start with the High School Exit Exam. **

**Analyst Jo Ann Behm has estimated that the Exit Exam cost California
about $600 million a year. So far, studies show that high school exit
exams do not result in higher employment, higher earnings, or improved
academic achievement. **

**Eliminating this useless exam would, by itself, take care of about
5% of the state's budget shortfall.**

**Stephen Krashen**

'Common core standards': education reform that makes sense

An editorial from the L.A. Times editors on the state's acceptance of the 'Common core standards.'

First, I begin with a post by Dr. Stephen Krashen hat he himself posted in response, posted on the LA Times website.

SKrashen at 4:43 PM July 15, 2010

This is not the time to spend billions on new standards and new tests.
The problem in education is not the lack of uniformity of standards
nor is it a failing of our teachers. The problem is poverty. When
studies control for poverty, American children do very well on
international tests, indicating that there is nothing seriously wrong
with our educational system. Study after study confirms that high
levels of poverty mean lower academic achievement.

We need to protect children from the effects of poverty. We need to
make sure that children have proper nutrition (no child left unfed),
health care, and access to books. Instead we will be spending billions
on new standards and tests. The new tests will not benefit students,
but they will benefit the publishing industry, which is looking
forward to creating and selling new tests and textbooks linked to the
tests to a national market.

My reaction is that race/ethnicity in addition to class, is an important consideration. That is, CA has the highest population of English learners in the nation (Texas is second; Florida is third) and if they end up NOT being a clear focus on both valid, psychometrically appropriate instruments and a fair process that considers holistic evaluation of students, progress for CA will have been compromised.

Also what is in place to prevent standardization, regimented learning, and drill and kill approaches?

And what spaces exist in the curriculum (if they're not squeezed out) for the kind of enrichment that culturally relevant pedagogy, multiple literacies (linguistic, digital, technological, etc.), and the arts provide?


'Common core standards': education reform that makes sense
The standards revolve around the fundamentals: what students should learn, and how they should learn it.

July 15, 2010

In many third-grade classrooms in California, students are taught — briefly — about obtuse and acute angles. They have no way to comprehend this lesson fully. Their math training so far hasn't taught them the concepts involved. They haven't learned what a degree is or that a circle has 360 of them. They haven't learned division, so they can't divide 360 by 4 to determine that a right angle is 90 degrees, and thus understand that an acute angle is less than 90 degrees and an obtuse angle more.

It makes no pedagogical sense, but California's academic standards call for third-graders to at least be exposed to the subject, and because angles might be on the standardized state test at the end of the year, exposed they are.

Now, that might change. In June, a yearlong joint initiative by 48 states produced a set of uniform but voluntary educational standards in English and math. Urged on by the Obama administration, the initiative's main purpose was to encourage states with low academic standards to bring their expectations into line with those of other states. Twenty states have already adopted the standards; 28 more, including California, are considering them. Texas and Alaska are the only states that declined to participate in the project.

California has among the highest academic standards in the country; the new "common core standards" would neither toughen nor weaken them appreciably. But the state still has something important to gain by adopting them: a more coherent blueprint for instruction that builds students' skills in a clear and sensible way, and allows teachers to delve more deeply into each subject. The standards would reduce the long list of academic material that California teachers must race through so their students can look good on the yearly fill-in-the-bubble tests. They focus on skills and abilities rather than on topics or specific books to be read, and, unlike much of California's current standards, they call for preparing students in one grade for the demands of the next. The change is overdue.

A state commission, made up largely of teachers, has been reviewing the new standards. It is scheduled to make its recommendation Thursday to the state Board of Education; the board will vote Aug. 2 on whether to adopt the standards. It should embrace them.

A welcome surprise

There was valid reason for early concern about the new standards. The Common Core State Standards Initiative, led by the National Governors Assn. and the Council of Chief State School Officers, were written very quickly; California last rewrote its standards in the 1990s, and the process took years. There's also pressure from the Obama administration for states to adopt the standards by Aug. 2; those that do get extra points in their Race to the Top applications for federal education reform grants. On top of that, the Legislature passed a bill that all but committed California to the standards before they had even been seen. Such important decisions should not be rushed, especially for the mere possibility of winning a grant that represents less than 2% of what California spends each year on schools.

Yet, for once, political pressure and doing the right thing for education coincide. The document that has emerged from the initiative is a thoughtful and exciting design for learning that emphasizes critical thinking, sophisticated writing and building on students' skills and knowledge so that they are prepared to succeed at the next step, especially in math. It is flexible enough to provide for the needs of college-bound students and those who plan on a job after high school, an improvement over recent pushes to demand a college-prep curriculum for all students.

The common core standards are easily the most useful and important reform to come out of the Obama administration's education policy. Instead of trying to manage structural issues such as how states evaluate teachers or whether they have large numbers of charter schools, the standards revolve around the fundamentals: what students should learn, and how they should learn it.

The administration wisely didn't try to impose national education standards after previous attempts fell apart over the right of states to regulate their schools. Rather, Education Secretary Arne Duncan bemoaned the uneven standards across the nation — with many states falling perilously short of preparing their students for college or a decent job — and left it to the states to respond with their own initiative. It will be up to each state to decide if it wants to adopt the resulting plan.

If it does, the state cannot weaken the standards in any way, but it can add to them, as long as the result retains at least 85% common core standards. California's standards commission has been struggling with that issue this week.

California's concerns

One of the chief complaints in California, from those who have supported the idea of requiring all eighth-graders to take Algebra 1, is that the standards would build more flexibility into the state's math program. The standards call for teaching some algebra skills in eighth grade, but spreads them out over subsequent grades as well. California could decide to add to the standards by requiring all typical Algebra 1 activities to take place in eighth grade, but it would be a mistake to do so. The eighth-grade requirement, which has been challenged in court, was poorly thought out. Close to half of California's students don't take algebra by eighth grade, and about 40% who do are not proficient in it by the end of the year. The standards outline a more sensible approach of making sure that students grasp the necessary skills as they progress. In fact, it's very similar to the way algebra is taught in Japan, one of the world's most successful countries at teaching math.

Some English teachers might blanch because the standards deemphasize the study of literature and instead stress the importance of training students, from the earliest years, to read more nonfiction — from newspapers to textbooks and primary research papers — and develop better skills at pulling information from those readings, using it to build cogent arguments and analysis.

Colleges and universities have long complained that students reach higher education without the necessary adeptness at extracting information from written sources, thinking about it critically and writing about it masterfully. Employers complain that job-seekers are inept at comprehending and following instruction manuals or at using critical-thinking skills to reach useful conclusions. Literature should remain an important component of English education; the ability to unlock the world of stories is how children first get excited about reading. But there has been too little focus in California's public schools on thinking analytically and too much emphasis on the five-paragraph essay.

One topic the standards do not address adequately is the education of students who are not fluent in English. This is where California should concentrate when it comes to adding to the standards.

But the state board doesn't need to address any of these concerns in order to approve the standards on Aug. 2. It can take time to refine its amendments. Implementation of the standards is expected to take place over the next four years.

Making it happen

The standards encourage a different kind of instruction than California's teachers have been urged to do over the past several years. They should open pathways to more creative classroom work.

But California's experience shows that high standards don't necessarily translate into a first-rate education. California will have to change its curriculum to match the standards, and that will mean eliminating topics or books that are held dear by one group or another and completely refashioning its approach. The state — and the nation as a whole — will need much better textbooks than are now widely available. Those books should have richer content, better writing and fewer flashy but distracting graphic elements. Teachers must be well trained.

Finally, teachers cannot change how they teach until better standardized tests are devised to reflect this welcome change in pedagogical thinking. Such tests will have fewer fill-in-the-bubble questions; instead, they will examine whether students can think through a mathematical process, understand concepts, read critically and write with persuasion and grace.

Fortunately, if dozens of states are working on these issues together, all of this will cost less and happen more quickly, because the states can share the expense of devising new textbook requirements, professional development and tests. There will be no need for each state to reinvent the academic wheel. California should become one of those states, starting with these common academic standards that are demanding enough to be proud of and engaging enough to touch off an era of more meaningful classroom instruction.

Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times

Can school structures improve teacher-student relationships? The relationship between advisory programs, personalization and students’ academic achiev

Just came across this article. Looks interesting. You can download a full pdf version here.


Can school structures improve teacher-student relationships? The relationship between advisory programs, personalization and students’ academic achievement

Larry V. McClure, Susan Yonezawa, Makeba Jones


In this paper, we present findings from a three-year study of students' perceptions of personalization and, specifically, advisory as a reform strategy and its relationship to students' academic progress at 14 recently converted small high schools in a large, urban school district in California. This study examined the degree to which students' sense of personalization (connections to the school and to adults at the school) interacted with students' academic achievement, as measured by standardized test scores and weighted grade-point averages. In particular, we examined the relationship between students' perceptions of formal structures to enhance personalization -- such as advisory periods -- and students' academic achievement.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Fine-arts requirements for Texas students expanding in coming school year

Requiring arts is on target but this statement smacks of condescension with its calling out of "mariachi." Mariachi is a world-class, highly respected musical genre. See ttp:// and to get a sense of this.

Brown was probably just being cute and meant no harm. Still, rather than singling out mariachi music—which could get coded by readers racially as how tax dollars are spent at the service of one group over another, an opportunity for bridge building could occur with a different message that coincides anyway with the general goal of musical appreciation in the Fine Arts curriculum. That is, rather than pitting groups against each other--even in a seemingly innocuous off-handed way, opportunities should not get lost in repeating over and over again how music—and the arts, generally—not only unites us but it further enriches our minds, intellects, creativity, social horizons, while setting the stage for much-needed cross cultural understanding.


Fine-arts requirements for Texas students expanding in coming school year
Posted Monday, Jul. 26, 2010

Reading, writing and ... mariachi?

When classes begin next month, students statewide will be required to take at least one fine arts course in the sixth, seventh or eighth grade. The rules also expand high school requirements so that all students in grades nine through 12 must earn at least one fine arts credit in courses such as band, theater, choir, dance or mariachi.

Many North Texas school administrators expect minimal changes in the coming school year, noting that most middle school-age students already take fine arts classes. But educators and parents are pleased nonetheless, saying more young people will be able to explore interests and identify artistic talents, eventually boosting enrollment in high school arts programs.

Jeannie Burleson said her son Jared will take choir class when he enters sixth grade at Birdville's Smithfield Middle School next year after singing in an extracurricular choir in elementary school.

"I think it is great for all of our kids to be exposed to a lot of different things," said Burleson, of North Richland Hills. "You don't know if you'll like it until you try it."

Statewide, middle school arts enrollment has declined in recent years because required courses crowd student schedules. And some students miss out on electives to prepare for the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, said Robert Floyd, executive director of the Austin-based Texas Music Educators Association.

"Arts are an important component of a well-balanced education," Floyd said. "I think it was a very positive move by the Legislature in spite of these days of high-stakes testing."

No major changes

In the Fort Worth district, about 80 percent of middle schoolers are enrolled in fine arts classes, officials said. Officials are working to accommodate the rest in the classes that interest them, said Michael Ryan, executive director of fine arts.

Most Arlington school district students already fulfill the state requirement because sixth-graders attend elementary schools before advancing to junior high, said spokeswoman Amy Casas.

"The change did not have much of an impact in our school district that we weren't already doing," Casas said.

Other districts, including Birdville, Keller and Northwest, also require sixth-graders to take a fine arts course.

Northwest's high school arts class enrollment has increased since the middle school requirement was implemented in 2007. And 75 percent of students in an arts class take one again the subsequent year, said Kevin Lacefield, fine arts director.

In Keller, fifth-graders rotate among electives every 12 weeks to help students identify their interests.

In Birdville, sixth-graders can sign up for a combination arts class, with one semester of art and another in theater, so they can see what they like.

Educators say early and repeated exposure can allow high school instructors to identify and recruit talented students.

'A strong start'

Having students interested in fine arts in middle school is paying off for some Tarrant County school districts.

In November, L.D. Bell High's Blue Raider marching band placed second in the Bands of America Grand National Championship in Indianapolis, having won in 2007.

Birdville High School's production of The Boyfriend won Best Musical in the 2009 Betty Lynn Buckley Awards. In May, the school tied for first place in 2010 for Bye Bye Birdie with North Crowley's Little Women.

The Arlington, Denton, Hurst-Euless-Bedford and Northwest school district were recognized nationally in May as among 30 "best communities for music education" by the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation.

And in Keller, where 71 percent of middle schoolers and 70 percent of high schoolers are enrolled fine arts courses, early exposure has been key in building theater programs, said David Stevens, fine arts director.

This past school year, Keller High won the 5A title in the state UIL One Act Play competitions, while Central High was one of eight state finalists. It was the second consecutive appearance at the state meet for Central, which finished second last year.

Timber Creek High, in its first year of competition, advanced to 3A regional competition.

"I'm convinced that why we're so successful in theater and arts is because we still offer art and music to every elementary school and add drama to it in fifth and sixth grade. At a lot of school districts, a kid doesn't get to select drama until high school," Stevens said.

"People were amazed that Timber Creek made it to region, but they've had instruction since fifth grade," Stevens said. "It gives them a strong start."

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Jessamy Brown, 817-390-7326

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

18 States and District of Columbia Are Finalists for Education Grants

July 27, 2010
18 States and District of Columbia Are Finalists for Education Grants

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia were named as finalists on Tuesday in the second round of a national competition for $3.4 billion in federal financing to support an overhaul of education policies.

The much-anticipated decision by the federal Education Department eliminated almost half of the 35 states that entered the competition, called Race to the Top.

The finalists are Arizona, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Carolina.

Winners will be announced in September, and federal officials say they expect 10 to 15 of the finalists to receive financing.

The contest is intended to give financial rewards to states that show a willingness to innovate. States are judged on a scale of zero to 500, with points awarded based on educators’ support for charter schools, for incorporating student performance in teacher evaluations and for intervening in the lowest-performing schools.

“We want to change the accountability system and stop labeling so many schools as failures,” Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, said in Washington in a speech announcing the finalists. “We want to recognize and reward high-achieving and high-growth schools, offering them the carrots and incentives that we know drive reform and progress.”

All the finalists have made teacher quality a high priority, according to Van Schoales, the executive director of Education Reform Now, a policy organization.

“The determining factor for these states has been what’s called the Great Teachers and Leaders section of the contest,” Mr. Schoales said. “These are states that are addressing teacher quality in terms of changing how we evaluate teachers, how we train the best and brightest and how we get rid of low-performing teachers.”

In the first round of awards in late March, only 2 of the 16 finalists received grants: Tennessee was given $500 million and Delaware $100 million. New York was a finalist that time, but its score lagged behind most others, placing 15th. In response, the State Legislature passed a package of measures in May intended to improve New York’s chances in the second round, including doubling the number of charter schools permitted and allowing student performance data to be used in teacher evaluations.

New York also tightened and rewrote its application, removing items from its proposed budget, like expensive office furniture, that had been criticized by the first-round judges. The state is now asking for $696 million, down from $830 million initially.

Education officials in the second-round finalist states celebrated the announcement on Tuesday, but said they were focused on the next step. Officials of the finalist states will make presentations in August to a panel of outside experts in education.

“While, like the Oscars, it is an honor to be nominated, we look forward to celebrating a win in this race,” said Gov. Sonny Perdue of Georgia, which narrowly missed being selected in the first round.


This year's America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being report continues more than a decade of dedication and collaboration by agencies across the Federal Government to advance our understanding of our Nation's children and what may be needed to bring them a better tomorrow. We hope you find this report useful. The Forum will be releasing its next full report in 2011.

Katherine K. Wallman, Chief Statistician, Office of Management and Budget


Each year since 1997, the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics has published a report on the well-being of children and families. Pending data availability, the Forum updates all 40 indicators annually on its Web site ( and alternates publishing a detailed report, America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, with a summary version that highlights selected indicators. The America's Children series makes Federal data on children and families available in a nontechnical, easy-to-use format in order to stimulate discussion among data providers, policymakers, and the public.

The Forum fosters coordination and integration among 22 Federal agencies that produce or use statistical data on children and families and seeks to improve Federal data on children and families. The America's Children series provides accessible compendiums of indicators drawn across topics from the most reliable official statistics; it is designed to complement other more specialized, technical, or comprehensive reports produced by various Forum agencies.

The indicators and demographic background measures presented in America's Children in Brief all have been presented in previous Forum reports. Indicators are chosen because they are easy to understand, are based on substantial research connecting them to child well-being, cut across important areas of children's lives, are measured regularly so that they can be updated and show trends over time, and represent large segments of the population, rather than one particular group.

These child well-being indicators span seven domains: Family and Social Environment, Economic Circumstances, Health Care, Physical Environment and Safety, Behavior, Education, and Health. This year's report reveals that health insurance coverage rates for children increased, the percentage of preterm births declined for the second straight year, average 8th-grade mathematics scores reached an all-time high, teen smoking was at its lowest since data collection began, and the adolescent birth rate declined after a 2-year increase. However, the percentage of children whose parents had secure employment was the lowest since 1996, and the percentage living in poverty was the highest since 1998. The percentage of children in food-insecure households was the highest since monitoring began. The Brief concludes with a summary table displaying recent changes in all 40 indicators.

For Further Information

The Forum's Web site ( provides additional information, including:

Detailed data, including trend data, for indicators discussed in this Brief as well as other America's Children indicators not discussed here.

Data source descriptions and contact information.
America's Children reports from 1997 to the present and other Forum reports.
Links to Forum agencies, their online data tools, and various international data sources.
Forum news and information on the Forum's overall structure and organization.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Teach For America ranks UT No. 1 for contributors

July 22, 2010

The University of Texas at Austin ranks No. 1 among large schools for contributing the largest number of students to Teach For America, a national program in which recent college graduates teach for two years in urban and rural public schools.

Eighty graduating seniors were accepted into the teaching corps for this fall; six percent of the senior class applied.

Teach For America first introduced its top contributors list in 2008. For the past three years, the university has ranked among the top five universities of its size, ranking fifth in 2008 and second in 2009.

See the list of top colleges and universities contributing to Teach For America’s teaching corps (PDF).

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Paolo Freire Freedom School

I just learned about this public school called The Paolo Freire Freedom School in Tucson, AZ. It provides a focus on
social justice and environmental sustainability. If Superintendent Tom Horne gets his way with HB 2281, the anti-ethnic studies measure, this school would cause the district to lose 10 percent of it's funding--which would kill the district financially for them to be found not to be in compliance.


El Pueblo Integral
Teaching and Learning Collaborative

Believes that:

To be powerful and transformative, teaching and learning must be deep, authentic, and developmentally appropriate;

Integral development must address the whole person (body, heart, mind, and soul) and the whole community ( the social, cultural, political, and economic structures) both locally and globally;

Individuals and their communities are vitally connected to each other, to all living beings, and to the earth itself and these relationships must be sustainable and just;

To be sustainable and just these relationships must be characterized by the sharing of resources and power, open discourse, appropriate decision-making strategies, constructive conflict resolution, and mutual positive regard;

Diversity among individuals, communities and all living beings, and the unique developmental journey of each must be honored and celebrated.

El Pueblo Integral
Teaching and Learning Collaborative


Continue to provide professional development services to public schools and school districts, locally and nationally, that want to create small, powerful learning communities within their schools and among their students, teachers and parents;

Open/operate a small public school in Tucson, Arizona that is a demonstration site/laboratory school for best instructional practices and innovative small school design and that is closely linked with a school in Guatemala;

Create an information network for the collection, analysis and distribution of learnings that may include an educational research lab, partnerships with universities, and a website with links to organizations that support and contribute to the work of EPI~TLC;

Create other structures as needed that promote the economic development, health and welfare, and political empowerment of the individuals and communities we serve; and eventually,

Design a replicable model for the development of other small schools/centers in the U.S. with links to schools/centers in Guatemala and elsewhere.

A Complete Guide to Common College Completion Metrics

The National Governor's Association has put out this report titled, A Complete Guide to Common College Completion Metrics that is worth reading.

Read in tandem with this press release:

NGA News Release
Jodi Omear, 617-217-8055
Erin Munley, 617-217-8056

West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin III Assumes NGA Chairmanship

BOSTON, MASS.—West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin III officially became chair of the National Governors Association (NGA) during the closing plenary session of the NGA Annual Meeting today. Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman was named NGA Vice Chair.

Gov. Manchin announced his chair’s initiative, Complete to Compete, which focuses on increasing the number of students in the United States who complete college degrees and certificates and improving the productivity of the country’s higher education institutions.

“The nation has fallen from first to twelfth in the world in the number of students who complete degrees. Now, we’re faced with a generation of students that is projected to have lower educational attainment than their parents,” said Gov. Manchin.

“This slide continues at a time when the economy demands more educated workers and Americans increasingly look to higher education as the path to economic success,” continued Gov. Manchin. “My initiative will bring together governors, higher education executive officers, campus leaders and corporate CEOs to make marked improvements in college completion and productivity and get our country back on track to produce a successful workforce for the future.”

In addition to raising awareness about the need to increase college completion and productivity, Complete to Compete aims to create a set of common higher education completion and productivity measures that governors and higher education leaders can utilize to monitor state progress and compare performance to other states and between institutions. A report, Complete to Compete: Common College Completion Metrics, was released during the session. It will be followed in the coming weeks by a technical guide for states.

The initiative will also:
- Develop a series of best practices and a list of policy actions governors can take to achieve increased college completion;
- Provide support to states to design policies and programs that increase college completion and improve higher education productivity and serve as models for other states around the country; and
- Hold a learning institute for governors’ senior advisors in education, workforce and economic development focusing on successful state strategies to graduate more students and meet workforce demands.
- Also during the closing plenary session, attendees heard about the deficit and U.S. outstanding debt challenges facing the nation, as well as the charge the President gave to former Senator Alan K. Simpson and Erskine Bowles, co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility.

The session closed with governors hearing final thoughts on NGA committee reports and considering proposed NGA policies. The nation’s governors will reconvene in Washington, D.C., February 26-28 for the 2011 NGA Winter Meeting. For more information, visit

For more information on the 2010-2011 Chair’s Initiative, visit 


Founded in 1908, the National Governors Association (NGA) is the collective voice of the nation’s governors and one of Washington, D.C.’s, most respected public policy organizations. Its members are the governors of the 50 states, three territories and two commonwealths. NGA provides governors and their senior staff members with services that range from representing states on Capitol Hill and before the Administration on key federal issues to developing and implementing innovative solutions to public policy challenges through the NGA Center for Best Practices. For more information, visit

The State of State Standards--and the Common Core--in 2010

A report from the Fordham Institute: The State of State Standards--and the Common Core--in 2010

July 21, 2010
by Sheila Byrd Carmichael, Gabrielle Martino, Kathleen Porter-Magee, W. Stephen Wilson

"Common Core" School Standard Roll on Without Supporting Evidence

July 21, 2010

Despite Obama administration claims, research finds no link between achievement
scores and academic standards

Contact: William J. Mathis - (802) 383-0058; [3]

BOULDER, Colo., and TEMPE, Ariz. (July 21, 2010) -- Very little evidence
supports the contention that establishing national academic standards for K-12
schools will improve the quality of American public education, and the standards
push may distract attention from other vital reforms necessary for our schools,
concludes the just-released policy brief The "Common Core" Standards Initiative:
An Effective Reform Tool? [4] The brief, authored by William J. Mathis, was
published today by Education and the Public Interest Center (EPIC), at the
University of Colorado at Boulder, and the Education Policy Research Unit
(EPRU), at Arizona State University.

"Without addressing both the in-school and out-of-school influences on test
scores, common core standards are not likely to improve the quality and equity
of America's public schools," Mathis explains.

President Obama has embraced "common core" standards and has pressured states
to adopt them, stating to the National Governors Association (NGA) that it will
withhold federal Title I aid from states that do not adopt standards such as
those being developed by the NGA and the Council of Chief State School Officers.
In addition, adopting the standards gives a state a major advantage in the
administration's Race to the Top application.

Standards advocates argue that common standards are necessary for keeping the
nation competitive in a global economy. But Mathis points out that research does
not support this oft-expressed rationale. No studies support a true causal
relationship between national standards and economic competitiveness, and at the
most superficial level we know that nations with centralized standards generally
tend to perform no better (or worse) on international tests than those without.
Further, research shows that national economic competitiveness is influenced far
more by economic decisions than by test scores.

Mathis also raises questions about the rapid development of the common-core
standards, the lack of field testing, and the overarching need for any
high-stakes consequences to be "valid," pursuant to established professional
guidelines. Given these concerns, he says that the prospect of positive effects
on educational quality or equality "seems improbable."

Find William Mathis's report, The "Common Core" Standards Initiative: An
Effective Reform Tool?, on the web at [5]

Think Tank Research Quality: Lessons for Policy Makers, the Media, and the
Public, our new book based on the work of the Think Tank Review Project, is now
available from Information Age Publishing at [6], or from
Barnes & Noble at [7].

The Education and the Public Interest Center (EPIC) at the University of
Colorado at Boulder and the Education Policy Research Unit (EPRU) at Arizona
State University collaborate to produce policy briefs and think tank reviews.
Our goal is to promote well-informed democratic deliberation about education
policy by providing academic as well as non-academic audiences with useful
information and high quality analyses. This policy brief was made possible in
part by the generous support of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research
and Practice.

Visit EPIC and EPRU at [8]

EPIC and EPRU are members of the Education Policy Alliance
( [9])


(c)2010 EPIC. Education and the Public Interest Center, School of Education
249 UCB, University of Colorado at Boulder, CO 80309-0249.
Phone: 303-447-EPIC(3742) | [10].


Two Articles by Tomas Toch in the Washington Monthly

Standards Issue
President Obama wants to lower the dropout rate. He also
wants to raise academic standards. But does one come at the
expense of the other?


Small is Still Beautiful

Study: California has 26 percent of 'DREAM' undocumented youth

Study: California has 26 percent of 'DREAM' undocumented youth
The Sacramento Bee, July 14, 2010

California is home to 26 percent of an estimated 2.1 million young illegal immigrants who could earn legal status with the proposed federal DREAM Act, according to a new study by the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, D.C.

The study released this month by the nonpartisan research center uses data from the 2006 and 2008 federal Current Population Survey, along with 2000 Census information to estimate the size of this population of children and young adults.

California is home to by far the greatest number - 553,000 - of potential beneficiaries of the proposal, the study found. The study puts Texas in second place, with 258,000, or 12 percent, followed by Florida, with 192,000 or 9 percent; New York with 146,000 or 7 percent; and Arizona with 114,000 or 5 percent.

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM, Act, was first introduced in 2001 by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

Durbin and Rep. Howard Berman, D-North Hollywood, reintroduced the proposal last year and interest in it was rekindled recently with President Obama's speech calling for immigration reform.

The fate of undocumented young adults has also become a point of debate in California's gubernatorial race. Republican candidate Meg Whitman favors ending a 2001 state law that allows undocumented California high school graduates to attend public universities and pay in-state tuition rates but receive no financial aid.

The federal DREAM Act would create a path to legal status for young adults under 35 who arrived in the United States before age 16 and graduated from high school here and have clean records. Beneficiaries could apply for conditional legal status that would last for six years and require them to complete at least two years of higher education or military service.

If they maintain clean records and complete academic or military requirements, beneficiaries could receive legal permanent residency.

The Migration Policy Institute study estimates that nationwide about 726,000 young adults would qualify right now for conditional legal status. Roughly 114,000 of those young adults already have at least two-year associate degrees.

Another 934,000 potential beneficiaries are still under 18 and could become eligible to benefit from the DREAM Act if they complete high school. Another 489,000 people between 18 and 34 could benefit but lack a high school diploma or GED.

The authors of the study estimated that only about 38 percent of this population of 2.1 million would likely achieve legal residency through the DREAM Act. Many would face problems because they lack high school diplomas, speak limited English or can't afford college tuition.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The MPI report is available online at:

Here's the downloadable full report.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Education commissioner defends Texas Projection Measure

Ok, so the Texas Projection Measure (TPM) developed as a part of HB 1 (3rd special session of the 79th Texas State Legislature (2005) and that later got addressed  by SB 1031 in the 80th (2007) legislature involves "predicted excellence," rewarding schools not on actual performance but on expected performance based on current test results and their school—an algorithm of a kind.

This measure involves students who fail a test but are predicted to pass it. However, some are more borderline than others and so it best "predicts" the percent passing students who are on the verge of passing (see earlier posts on TPM). Abby Rapoport from the Texas Observer suggests that this is a loophole to boost a school's rating. In any case, actual improvement or growth from one year to the next--independent of whether the cut score hurdle is met should also be considered. So one could improve and reward a school that may not quite hit the mark because of a privileging of the TPM over actual growth.

Measurement is also an issue with this model since it depends on student getting tested not only in all subjects (reading and math), but also the same language (English and Spanish) over a two-year time period, optimally.

A deeper problem with the test scores and the ratings that come from them is that we still never really know whether the students are actually learning anything. Maybe they're just becoming better test takers.


Education commissioner defends Texas Projection Measure
08:07 AM CDT on Friday, July 23, 2010

By TERRENCE STUTZ/ The Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN – Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott defended a policy Thursday that has allowed schools to boost their state ratings by counting some failed students as passing, saying politics has driven many of the complaints.

Scott, speaking to the State Board of Education, said the Texas Projection Measure has been misunderstood and misrepresented by critics who contend it gives a false impression of school performance.

The complex formula allows schools and districts to count as passing some students who actually fail the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills if the projection measure shows they are likely to pass in a future year.

"There is a little bit of election-year politics going on here," Scott said.

"It is very easy to demagogue. It is very easy for someone to say they gave students credit for failing."

Democratic candidate for governor Bill White has been among those attacking the policy, accusing Scott and his boss, GOP Gov. Rick Perry, of cheating to make some schools look better than they really are.

"They decided to cheat, and then once caught cheating they failed to acknowledge responsibility. They counted failing scores as passing," White has said.

Scott rejected that, saying the formula – which gives schools credit for projected growth in student achievement – is "statistically accurate, valid and reasonable."

Scott has said he may revise the policy and will be open to any legislative changes.

He also cited scores of e-mails from superintendents, principals and teachers who wrote that the projection measure was beneficial for their students and schools – and should be retained.

The Dallas Morning News obtained copies of all e-mails received by the Texas Education Agency through the beginning of this week.

"Please keep TPM and do not suspend the use of the TPM for school accountability ratings," said Lewisville High School principal Brad Burns, reflecting the viewpoints of numerous principals.

Weatherford High School principal David Belding urged Scott to please "not dismantle a system that gives schools with more difficult student groups to educate the chance to be recognized for moving those students forward. That is what TPM does."

But there were a few critics mixed in with all the supporters of the policy.

David Seizer of Frisco called the upward adjustment of passing numbers a "crime" and "an open admission that you have been negligent with one of your major responsibilities."

The TEA reported last year that 78 school districts and 355 campuses would have been rated academically unacceptable if the test results of their students had not been adjusted by the formula.

Instead, they received acceptable ratings.

Forget grade levels, KC schools try something new

Hmm. This sounds somewhat like the curricular approach taken up by the small schools movement that Deborah Meier writes about her in her, THE POWER OF THEIR IDEAS. Failure becomes more mythic than real because students progress through the curriculum in a self-paced manner after they demonstrate mastery. Grouping by ability, however, remains a concern given ample research that points to the harms of ability grouping. It seems that a self-paced curriculum could be done without ability grouping, per se.



KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Forget about students spending one year in each grade, with the entire class learning the same skills at the same time. Districts from Alaska to Maine are taking a different route.

Instead of simply moving kids from one grade to the next as they get older, schools are grouping students by ability. Once they master a subject, they move up a level. This practice has been around for decades, but was generally used on a smaller scale, in individual grades, subjects or schools.

Now, in the latest effort to transform the bedraggled Kansas City, Mo. schools, the district is about to become what reform experts say is the largest one to try the approach. Starting this fall officials will begin switching 17,000 students to the new system to turnaround trailing schools and increase abysmal tests scores.

"The current system of public education in this country is not working" said Superintendent John Covington. "It's an outdated, industrial, agrarian kind of model that lends itself to still allowing students to progress through school based on the amount of time they sit in a chair rather than whether or not they have truly mastered the competencies and skills."

Here's how the reform works:

Students — often of varying ages — work at their own pace, meeting with teachers to decide what part of the curriculum to tackle. Teachers still instruct students as a group if it's needed, but often students are working individually or in small groups on projects that are tailored to their skill level.

For instance, in a classroom learning about currency, one group could draw pictures of pennies and nickels. A student who has mastered that skill might use pretend money to practice making change.

Students who progress quickly can finish high school material early and move forward with college coursework. Alternatively, in some districts, high-schoolers who need extra time can stick around for another year.

Advocates say the approach cuts down on discipline problems because advanced students aren't bored and struggling students aren't frustrated.

But backers acknowledge implementation is tricky, and the change is so drastic it can take time to explain to parents, teachers and students. If the community isn't sold on the effort, it will bomb, said Richard DeLorenzo, co-founder of the Re-Inventing Schools Coalition, which coaches schools on implementing the reform.

Kansas City officials hope the new system will help the district that's been beset with failure. A $2 billion desegregation case failed to boost test scores or stem the exodus of students to the suburbs and private and charter schools. The district has lost half its students and will close about 40 percent of its schools by the fall to avoid bankruptcy.

Covington wants to start the system in five elementary schools in hopes of spreading it through the upper grades once the bugs are worked out.

"This system precludes us from labeling children failures," Covington said. "It's not that you've failed, it's just that at this point you haven't mastered the competencies yet and when you do, you will move to the next level."

As it plans for the change, Kansas City teachers and administrators have visited and sought advice from a Denver area school district that uses the reform.

Adams County School District 50 has about 10,000 students this past school year its elementary and middle students made the shift. The reform will be phased into the high schools starting in the fall.

Count 11-year-old Alex Rodriguez as a convert to the new approach. He used to get bored after plowing through his assignments. He had to bring books from home or the library if he wanted a challenge because the ones at his old school were one or two grade levels too easy.

"I liked school," he said. "But it was hard sitting there and doing nothing."

His parents transferred the high achiever and his three younger siblings to the Denver area district after learning it was trying something new. His father, Richard Rodriguez, has been thrilled with the turnaround.

"I wish school was like this when I was growing up," he said.

There also is growing interest in Maine, where six districts, with a combined 11,248 students, are transitioning to the reform, starting with staff training and community meetings and gradually changing what happens in classrooms.

"It is incredible what is happening in the classrooms in Maine that are trying it," said Diana Doiron, who is overseeing the effort for the state's education department.

Education officials in Kansas City, Maine and elsewhere said part of the allure is the success other districts have after making the switch.

Marzano Research Laboratory, an educational research and professional development firm, evaluated 2009 state test data for over 3,500 students from 15 school districts in Alaska, Colorado, and Florida. Researchers found that students who learned through the different approach were 2.5 times more likely to score at a level that shows they have a good grasp of the material on exams for reading, writing, and mathematics.

Greg Johnson, director of curriculum and instruction for the Bering Strait School District in Alaska, recalled that before the switch there were students who had been on honor roll throughout high school then failed a test the state requires for graduation.

Now, he said if students are on pace to pass a class like Algebra I, the likelihood of them passing the state exam covering that material is more than 90 percent. He's proud of that accomplishment and said teachers love it.

"The most die-hard advocates for our system are our teachers because, especially the ones who were back with us before the change, they saw where things were then," he said. "They see where things are now and they don't want to go back."

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Coahuiltecan Ceremonial Songs CD

Coahuiltecan Ceremonial Songs CD

What: Coahuiltecan Traditional Ceremonial Songs CD Release with accompanying Manual
When: July 4, 2010 Release Date
Where: San Marcos, Texas
Contact: Maria Rocha, (512) 393-3310;;

Indigenous Cultures Institute makes cultural preservation history again with the release of its Coahuiltecan Traditional Ceremonial Songs CD and accompanying language manual that outlines definitions, history, and translations. The CD and manual packets are available from the San Marcos nonprofit organization and profits will benefit its "Powwow in the Schools" program for local school students.

“We recorded thirty-two songs,” says Dr. Mario Garza, Institute Board Chair. “And we provide the translations, vital Coahuiltecan language information, and ceremonial history in a manual that’s packaged with the CD.”

This recording is the first of its kind, documenting words spoken in a language that has long been considered extinct. Carlos Aceves, an educator from El Paso, Texas and Dr. Mario Garza compiled songs that the two have sung over the years in various ceremonies including sweat lodges and Native American Church meetings. These songs are all in the Coahuiltecan language and a number of them have been passed down for hundreds of years. The manual provides information on the origins of the songs and their ties to the ceremonies of the original "peyote people", making a compelling statement about the modern day relevance of the ancient languages spoken by the Coahuiltecans.

“Indigenous people called Coahuiltecan have been living on both sides of the Rio Grande River for centuries,” says Garza. “We had over two hundred indigenous languages in south Texas that have since disappeared. Now we Native people are determined to revive and preserve our native languages and this CD is part of our effort.”

Besides translating all of the songs, the manual also contains a glossary of Coahuiltecan words and their definitions, plus sources for more extensive dictionaries of not only Coahuiltecan, but also Comecrudo, Cotoname, Maratino, Aranama, and Karankawa, which are also Rio Grande Delta tribes.

The mission of Indigenous Cultures Institute is to preserve and promote the cultures, traditions, ceremonies, and languages of Native Americans indigenous to Texas and Northeastern Mexico. This CD project is the first in its new Coahuiltecan Language Program which will expand over the next few years. The Institute also sponsors “Powwow in the Schools” to provide educational and artistic presentations about the indigenous identity of the Hispanic.

“We want our children to feel proud about their Native ancestry,” says Aceves, who teaches elementary school in El Paso. “They stand on the shoulders of giants in the areas of arts, sciences, astronomy, sociology, ecology, and more.” The Institute provides researched information about Native American contributions, performances by Aztec, Mayan, and Powwow dancers, flute players, Native storytellers, and other cultural presentations.

“Now we have a language CD that can help us preserve our culture through the words that our ancestors spoke,” says Aceves.

The CD and manual packets will be available immediately after Independence Day and inquires can be made online at, or by calling the Institute at (512) 393-3310.

Texas Conference Executive Committee Request for Repeal of Tx HB 2504

Does this not reek of surveillance and hence, loss of academic freedom?

Texas Conference of AAUP Newsletter 
Summer 2010

This Resolution was unanimously adopted by the Texas Conference Executive Committee.The Texas Conference of the American Association of University Professors requests repeal of Texas House Bill 2504. This logistically burdensome and unfunded legislative mandate constrains classroom innovation and faculty-student interaction while substantially raising costs. The bill has a chilling effect on the ability of students and faculty to openly and honestly discuss controversial subjects in the classroom. It allows persons opposed to open discussion of con- troversial scientific and cultural positions to target such discussions by requiring faculty to post detailed descriptions of material to be covered in their classes on keyword searchable websites. It is a clear assault upon the principles of academic freedom long supported by AAUP.

Editor Contact: Hajar Sanders, PhD Phone: (713) 973-3159 E-mail:
This Resolution was unanimously adopted by the Texas Conference Executive Committee.

Now Is the Time to Support Science Teachers

Published Online: July 22, 2010
Now Is the Time to Support Science Teachers
By Jeniffer Harper-Taylor

There’s no better time to make the case for science education than right now. For months, we’ve witnessed the largest ecological disaster in U.S. history unfold, creating debates among scientists and engineers about how the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico can be contained. This crisis has created an opportunity for American children at every grade level to become scientists while questioning and exploring the future of the nation’s energy challenges. Read more here.

I do think that the BP oil spill creates an opportunity for science. It also creates an opportunity for religion and theology. Like science, religion and theology address the mysteries of the universe but they also each foster a kind of lens that while distinct, also converges in the most exquisite and harmful kinds of ways.

On the positive side is the awe and wonder of creation. On the negative side, all tend to promote doctrinal understandings that we embody and live even if we aren't religious, per se, though we might be spiritual. That is, we inherit a particular construction of the cosmos, the universe, and our place in it. A confluence between science, religion, and theology occurs when we collectively view ourselves as separate from, and above, all of creation. This way of knowing is about domination and having power over creation rather than power with it. And this way of knowing plays out in the deep gulf, separation, and exploitative relationships that exist between rich and the poor nations and persons.

What the BP oil spill forces us to realize is that this is ourselves as a species on whom we are wreaking havoc and destruction and not just some hole in the ground in the middle of the ocean. And this havoc is fated to impact us not only for generations to come but also our unborn generations to come.

What can we do to inspire a much deeper sense of accountability, an "ancestral accountability," if you will, that really interrogates our attitudes toward the planet so that we can stop polluting and contaminating not only ourselves, but also our grand children and great grand children to come into oblivion? Why can't we as a community and nation lead by putting the very real threat of biocide and ecocide into our school, district, and state curricula?

What kind of epistemology, or way of knowing, allowed us to get so alienated from the earth that we thought that we could do this to her in the first place? We will hopefully eventually plug up the hole but how will we ever plug up the arrogance behind the narrow, market-driven rationality that created this colossal, atrocious mess in the first place?

We need to come to terms with our harmful, self-interested, and exploitative, ways of knowing that are destroying the planet—and science, in itself, will not get us to that place of knowing. It is generally too compromised to take us to that place of an authentic embrace of the universe.

Nor have the social sciences—or religion, for that matter—induced a spirit of relation beyond our narrow constructions of family, clan, and community. However, see Iain S. MacLean who investigates competing frames of globalization and indigenous "cosmovision" in Mayan struggles in his book, titled Reconciliation, Nations and Churches in Latin America (2006).

In anticipation of a simplistic and patronizing reaction to my argument about epistemology herein, I align myself with scholars like MacLean who thoughtfully and respectfully present through their research and writings the complex, indigenous world views of native people and how these get negotiated with churches and religion.

Westerners have much to learn about their orientations toward time, space, and the environment. Similarly, their histories, sense of human relationships, sociopolitical realities, mythic constructions, and how they view the universe offer immense food for thought on how we can both prevent and overcome environmental and planetary degradation and disaster. Unfortunately, our schools and universities teach so little of this that one generally has to seek out these texts and discourses on one's own. The good thing is that they are there for the taking.

The underpinnings of our mostly unquestioned epistemology is the "doctrine of separateness" that Western thought inherited from St. Augustine in the 4 a.d. Unless one studies the history of religion and theology, we cannot unearth the foundations of our very own thinking. Rather it thrives as a deeply-embedded artifact of Western thought that is unconsciously passed on from generation to generation.

So my point here is yes, we do need more and better science—science that is environmentally conscious—but we also need as a people, nation, and species to embark on a much deeper conversation about our relationship to nature and to each other. We have instead inherited a theology of separateness from all of creation and in losing this respect, we become threats to our own survival.

We can surely change policies to make them more environmentally responsive and we can expand scientific knowledge about the universe but if our world view remains the same, un-rehabilitated, we are destined to find ourselves in this same horrific situation anew. And how many bodies of water and how much sea life do we have to spare?


Friday, July 23, 2010

Board of Education reverses course on charter school funding

Board of Education reverses course on charter school funding
By Kate Alexander
Published: 9:44 p.m. Friday, July 23, 2010

State Board of Education members muscled through a proposal Friday to invest public school endowment dollars in charter school facilities.

But there could be a push back next year from legislators who say political aims are overtaking the board's responsibility to manage prudently the $22 billion Permanent School Fund. The endowment was created in 1876 for the benefit of Texas public schools.

On Friday, the board reversed a preliminary vote from the previous day and dedicated $100 million of the fund to developing and leasing buildings for charter schools, which are privately managed public schools.

Charter schools deserve assistance similar to what the state provides traditional public school districts, said board member David Bradley, R-Beaumont. The fund helps school districts by guarantying debt used to build classrooms and other facilities, which reduces the districts' borrowing costs.

"We're trying to be fair," Bradley said.

State Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, said the board appears to be overstepping its role.

"Their job is to prudently invest the fund so that the constitutional objectives of the fund can be maximized, and providing facilities for charter schools is not one of those functions," said Duncan, chairman of the State Affairs Committee. "This appears to be a political decision and not a decision that is based upon the board exercising its fiduciary responsibility under the constitution."

Duncan and state Rep. Donna Howard , D-Austin, carried legislation last year that would have placed investment oversight of the endowment with an appointed board of financial professionals.

That measure cleared the House of Representatives with the 100 votes needed to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot, but it never got a hearing in the Senate.

Howard said she intends to file the legislation again in 2011 and believes that lawmakers from across the political spectrum will agree that Friday's decision "is not conservative management of this fund."

Chairwoman Gail Lowe , R-Lampasas, has her own reservations about whether the charter school investment would pass constitutional muster. But she said having an elected board overseeing the fund does serve the public well.

The constitutional issue in question is whether a charter school facility investment would meet the "prudent person" standard that generally says an investment's return must be commensurate with its risk.

The board's investment adviser described the charter school investment as low-return and high-risk and declined to make a recommendation for or against the investment approach.

Board member Cynthia Dunbar , R-Richmond, said the board members are meeting their legal obligations to vet investments thoroughly.

There is also a benefit to the overall fund as well as to education as a whole, Dunbar said.

No investment will be made until the attorney general weighs in on the "prudent person" question or the Legislature gives clear authority for the board to proceed, the board stated in its approval of the asset allocation.

Education Commissioner Robert Scott said he will instruct staff members who oversee the Permanent School Fund and charter school policy to tackle many lingering questions about the plan.

On Thursday, the board split 7 to 7 on a vote to include the charter school proposal in the overall investment mix of the endowment. The tie sank the proposal.

But when the final vote was taken Friday, one opponent from Thursday, Rick Agosto, was gone. The San Antonio Democrat had left the meeting shortly after roll call earlier in the morning.

Agosto's absence gave supporters of the charter school proposal the one-vote margin needed to include it in the overall investment mix of the endowment.

Agosto said any suggestion that he left the meeting to flip the vote's outcome is "preposterous."; 445-3618

Congress, Latino Republicans join immigration debate

SB1070 is really hostile folks. I'm glad that members of Congress are standing up. However, also check out this story: Hispanic GOP group backs Ariz. law. Specifically, Jesse Hernandez, Chairman and Executive Director of the Arizona Latino Republican Association (ALRA) is advocating on behalf of immigrants who entered the country legally and argues that this is a state's rights battle over the federal government. He's bucking the overall trend, however, with 8 out of 10 Latinos disapproving of SB 1070 according to a recent LatinoMetrics poll.

It's becoming a big fight—as it should.


Congress, Latino Republicans join immigration debate
Posted: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 7:36 pm | Updated: 1:11 am, Fri Jul 23, 2010.
Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services

Nearly one out of every seven members of Congress, including two from Arizona, want a federal judge hearing a challenge to the state's new immigration to know that they don't believe it is preempted by federal statutes.

In legal papers filed Wednesday in federal court, the 76 members of the House and five senators argue that the U.S. Department of Justice "fundamentally misapprehends the nature of its authority to enforce immigration law.''

Separately, a group known as the Arizona Latino Republicans Association asked for permission to actively intervene in the lawsuit to help Gov. Jan Brewer defend SB 1070.

Attorneys say the organization has an interest in the statute being allowed to take effect. They said while the organization's 230 members want to be treated equally with other U.S. citizens, they "do not believe in providing a safe haven to illegal immigrants.''

The brief filed by the federal lawmakers says Congress has exclusive power over immigration and that executive branch agencies can act only within those regulations. More to the point, the lawmakers say that federal agencies, absent explicit congressional authority, cannot choose to selectively enforce the laws.

That is a crucial point in the lawsuit to be heard today in U.S. District Court.

In its challenge to the Arizona law, the government admits that the Department of Homeland Security, which administers immigration laws and enforces border security, and the Department of Justice, which prosecutes offenders, "exercise discretion.''

For example, the lawsuit says, the agencies decide whether to bring criminal charges against someone who has violated immigration laws, whether to let an illegal immigrant remain without being incarcerated, and whether to grant "humanitarian or some other form of relief.''

"Decisions to forego removal or criminal penalties result not only from resource constraints, but also from affirmative policy considerations -- including humanitarian and foreign policy interests -- established by Congress and balanced by the executive branch,'' the lawsuit says. The Department of Justice says that Arizona's law, which includes requirements for police to check the immigration status of those they reasonably suspect are not in this country legally, conflict and interfere with those decisions.

The members of Congress, in their brief, disagree.

"The executive's powers to enforce federal immigration law does not confer the power to preempt state immigration enforcement by choosing, for foreign policy or other reasons, to selectively enforce the laws,'' they said.

That brief also says there is evidence Congress wants local police involved in enforcing federal immigration laws. That includes a statute that specifically bars cities enacting policies that bar police officers from sending information about illegal immigrants to federal authorities.

The federal lawmakers acknowledged that Congress passed a special law in 1996 allowing state and local police to receive special training, known as 287(g), to enforce federal immigration laws.

"But Congress reaffirmed that each state's inherent authority to enforce federal immigration laws was not restricted and that states could continue to assist in immigration enforcement,'' the members of Congress said.

The legal brief was signed by Trent Franks and John Shadegg, two of the 10 members of the state's congressional delegation.
It was filed for the members of Congress by two legal organizations: the Immigration Reform Law Institute which says it works to fight the damages caused by illegal immigrants, and the American Center for Law and Justice which bills itself as a public interest law firm working to protect the constitutional rights of religious groups.

More about Immigration

ARTICLE: Judge grills lawyers on Arizona immigration law
ARTICLE: 7 arrested in protests outside immigration hearing
ARTICLE: Goddard: Drug cartels key to stopping illegal immigration
ARTICLE: Republicans lose bid to block suit against Arizona law
More about Sb1070
ARTICLE: Judge grills lawyers on Arizona immigration law
ARTICLE: 7 arrested in protests outside immigration hearing
ARTICLE: Goddard: Drug cartels key to stopping illegal immigration
ARTICLE: Republicans lose bid to block suit against Arizona law
More about Lawsuit
ARTICLE: Republicans lose bid to block suit against Arizona law
ARTICLE: Officer wants Ariz. lawsuit merged with feds' case
ARTICLE: Education groups sue state over voter-approved funding for schools
ARTICLE: Lawsuit aims for state to return funds to transportation programs
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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Putting the “Boy Crisis” in Context

Harvard Education Letter. Volume 26, Number 4
July/August 2010

Putting the “Boy Crisis” in Context
Finding solutions to boys’ reading problems may require looking beyond gender

This is an interesting article by Michael Sadowski. Mention is made of the “Matthew Effect,” espoused by psychologist Keith Stanovich. This effect is harmful to boys who learn to read later than girls with an accumulation of deficits for them vis-a-vis many girls who press further ahead early on, creating a gap that's hard to bridge as children progress through school.

What's interesting to consider (that Sadowski considers, as well as Harvard Educator, Catherine Snow) is the role that reading well early on makes and how this then implicates making the curriculum more "gender relevant" by providing books and reading, generally, that are more appealing to boys (including violence and sports).

Where does race come into all of this?

Where does scripted, regimented curriculum come into this?

Interesting debate about boy-girl differences.


Plan to invest in Texas charter schools gets first defeat

Plan to invest in Texas charter schools gets first defeat
State Board of Education to have final vote today on proposal to spend $100 million in charter schools

By Kate Alexander

Updated: 11:08 p.m. Thursday, July 22, 2010
Published: 8:38 p.m. Thursday, July 22, 2010

The State Board of Education opted Thursday not to dedicate public school endowment dollars to finance charter school facilities.

But that decision probably will not be the final word on the proposal to invest as much as $100 million of the $23 billion Permanent School Fund into developing and leasing Texas charter schools.

The 7-7 split that scuttled the proposal Thursday could change when a final vote is taken today .

Even if Thursday's decision holds, the proposal could be revived if the Texas attorney general deems the investment approach suitable. Chairwoman Gail Lowe , R-Lampasas, agreed to seek the attorney general's opinion, as the board's legal adviser recommended, despite her own reservations about the proposal.

In the meantime, legislators have an opportunity to address the lack of state assistance for charter school facilities, said board member David Bradley , R-Beaumont.

"I beseech the Legislature to fix it for us," said Bradley, who has pushed this idea for the past two years.

Legislators could extend to charter schools, which are privately managed public schools, a debt guaranty similar to the benefit that the Permanent School Fund provides traditional school districts. That guaranty significantly reduces the districts' borrowing costs because they get lower interest rates with the state backing.

Another possible legislative fix would be to provide a property tax break for landlords who lease space to charter schools and require them to pass on those savings to the schools, said David Dunn , executive director of the Texas Charter School Association.

The cost to the state, Dunn said, is estimated at $2 million to $3 million a year to make up the lost tax revenue to school districts.

Both changes might require voters to approve changes to the state constitution, Dunn said.

At issue Thursday was how the board should invest the full Permanent School Fund, an endowment created in 1876 to benefit Texas public schools.

The $100 million charter school allocation would have been a very small piece of that pie, but it dominated much of the discussion.

Decisions on investing the fund must be based on achieving a return that is commensurate with the risk.

The board's investment adviser, Rhett Humphreys of NEPC LLC, said it was "very tricky business" to land on an accurate risk-return expectation for a charter school investment because there is no performance history for such an investment.

The NEPC analysis put the expected return at 4.75 percent with a high risk level.

For comparison, the return for non-investment grade bonds, also known as junk bonds, was 8 percent with much lower risk, NEPC estimated.

Opponents said such an investment would not be a prudent use of Permanent School Fund money.

"I certainly want to help charters, but not in this way," said board member Bob Craig, R-Lubbock.

But Bradley maintains that members' opposition was grounded in hostility to alternatives to traditional public school.

"The vote wasn't about the Permanent School Fund," Bradley said.

The opponents roundly disagreed.

"I am not hostile to charter schools, but I am hostile to ill-thought-out concepts," said Mavis Knight, D-Dallas. "I'm also hostile to having a decision forced upon me without having adequate supporting information.

"I will not abrogate my fiduciary responsibility ... to satisfy someone else's agenda."